It's a question I find myself asking on particularly tough days. It is not an easy industry - every second person is opening a boutique. It is a low-profit margin business and staff can have high turnover.
Despite all of this, I just love it. Our team gets more amazing every year, we have the BEST customers and there is usually enough margin to allow us to grow and expand the business. Most of all, I am extremely grateful for the people I’ve had the pleasure to know in the store, on the road buying, and other like-minded business owners.
But let’s start at the beginning… I’ve always preferred to be outside. As a kid, it was building forts, biking to the playground, or organizing a neighborhood game until dark. We spent a lot of our family time at the beach or park, exploring around home. As I got older, I took my adventures further across Canada, the USA, and South Pacific.
In university, I studied Recreation & Business with a dream to own unique spa destinations around the world. And who knows, maybe I will still pursue this dream one day. After graduating, I became the manager of a municipal recreation department and through that experience, I learned three major things:
- I wanted to seek employment with an organization that could make decisions quickly, encourages creativity, and fosters growth;
- I wanted to work in a positive environment that was aligned with my values and;
- I wanted to help people get active, have outdoor opportunities, and empower men & women..
Let's chat about the last one just a little more.
Since university, I’ve had a passion for giving women opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise have. Over the years I’ve started a ladies' learn-to-play hockey league, launched an initiative that got people active through trying new activities (as adults), worked as a personal trainer, a spin instructor, and facilitated various outdoor adventures. I’ve always recognized that it’s fun to try new things, but it is easier to do so in groups. And as women, sometimes we need just a little bit more encouragement to take the leap.
So how did all of this lead to me finding my purpose in retail? It all started when a major department store closed in our town. Margolians was a staple in the community for decades and when they shut their doors it left a hole in local retail. Suddenly, there was an opportunity to open an apparel business.
At the time, I had just popped out baby #2 who (luckily) started off sleeping a lot! During the downtime, I started looking for sales reps who sold my favourite brands that I always purchased when traveling. My husband was beyond supportive and from day one, he encouraged me to take the risk, helped me navigate getting a loan, and made suggestions on store layout. On the first day, he pushed me through the front door and remained a quiet supporter in the background ever since.
Now that you know how I got to where I am today, you might still be thinking, but why retail?
Well, I love apparel. I love people. And I love when people feel amazing in their clothes. The term “lifestyle apparel” was fairly new in 2012 but that was exactly what we were. I found brands that are of great quality, that people could look good and feel good in while walking the dog, running errands, hanging at home but also climbing a mountain and traveling the world.
The response in our small town was amazing! There were already a couple of stores that sold dresses, high fashion, and items for a more mature customer but nothing like this. We were casual, comfortable, sophisticated, and chic and since then have only become more so.
From DAY ONE the most important thing for our business was this: our goal was to make people feel amazing! We were not going to sell something that didn’t make people light up, that didn’t fit well, or push multiple items into their bags. We wanted a positive experience in the store that translated to compliments and helped with self-esteem and empowerment.
Almost 10 years later we still feel exactly the same. Our brands have evolved, and our stores have evolved but the desire to elevate moods, experiences, and lives through clothes, footwear, and gear is still the reason WHY.